Peterborough

Of course the day we packed up to leave Melrose meant the sun came out in force. Our last day in Melrose had been 22 C and wet, today and tomorrow would be 33 C and cloudless. Whilst visiting the eclectic and rather dust filled toy museum in Wilmington a few days previously, the odd father and son team there had rather enthusiastically suggested we visit the Toy and Model Train Show in Clare. It was only a 130 km detour, so down we drove, closing to within 50 km of our mid February route up the Spencer Gulf. The drive to and from Clare was vastly different to anything we have seen so far, rolling hills of wheat stretch to the horizon, with only a few small vineyards of famed Clare Valley grapes visible close to town.

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Whilst the collection of toys, model trains and remote control everythings was impressive, I was quickly reminded of the types of adults that spend their time making and collecting and building bespoke models and radio controlled toys, let’s just say it was a curious assortment. Usually slightly tubby dads in thongs and mismatched clothes followed by equally ill-dressed bored looking kids. The elderly gents who make the ride-on steam trains and tractors are a different lot altogether, very passionate and clearly reliving a steam filled youth. Highlights were Sam getting to drive a miniature steam tractor, seeing a huge submarine in the lake, complete with real life submariner, an obligatory steam train ride for the boys and spotting a rare and very original 1948 FX Holden.

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We set up in Peterborough’s only caravan park and were there to visit the town’s main attraction, the Steamtown Heritage Rail Centre. This is where the ungainly policy decisions of late 19th century rail met, with three rail gauges converging at the world’s only remaining triple gauge turntable. In the morning we were shown around the rail museum, which is relatively ‘hands on’, and comprises an excellent collection of yesteryear diesels, steam trains and carriages. Including a gorgeous first class ‘Transcontinental’ carriage from the 20’s, complete with piano. A bygone era when rail conductor resumes included piano playing to various degrees. The day time tours run continuously, meaning the tour guides get progressively duller as the day drags on. At least we got to see the Indian Pacific go past, which the tour guide assured us that in her four years here, “It’s been early once and on time once, but it’s normally late”.

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One of the best town entry signs we’ve seen. There are three more.

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The working triple gauge turntable – the last of its kind anywhere.

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James bashing out Beethoven’s Ninth on the out of tune ivory.

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That afternoon, on Kris’s insistence, we drove to Magnetic Hill, an AMAZING phenomenon whereby ‘you put the car in neutral, and the unusual magnetic field pulls it up the hill’. The car does indeed roll, but after a quick check with a spirit level, I confirmed that most things should roll downhill! The intersection of the gently sloping downhill road and the adjacent uphill sloping wheat fields causes an optical illusion. Myth Busted!

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The middle pic suggests you’d roll forward, you don’t, it’s an optical illusion.

Back at the van park, we had a swim in the pool before dinner. After that it was getting ready for the rail museum’s much anticipated ‘Light and Sound Show’. This expensive add-on to the day time tour was sold in the brochures as ‘spectacular’ and ‘not to be missed’. You sit in an old train carriage on the now stationary turntable and they project a documentary of local rail history onto a roller door. At the start and end of the ‘show’, coloured lights come on around a few of the old engines and carriages, oh and there’s a smoke machine. The sound quality was very poor and we all agreed that whilst the doco was interesting, the ‘show’ was very underwhelming. I hope Wiki Camps or Trip Adviser comments soon sort them out.

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